19
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the meaning of all those “w”s in email and SNSs?

You see a lot of w and ww and even www in Twitter and casual chat. What does it mean? I've always thought it was わいわい but never found out. How is it pronounced? Here's an example from Twitter ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

When is Vている the continuation of action and when is it the continuation of state?

Last night, when I asked my wife to send an email to me, she said もう送っている which I took to mean that she was "sending the message". (The message had a big attachment so I imagined that it could take a ...
19
votes
3answers
751 views

what is the difference between -さ and -み suffixes to make a noun out of an adjective?

Example 悲しさ is sadness, and 悲しみ is sadness too. What is the difference? According to Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, -み "is more emotive and concrete characterization of some state" and -さ ...
19
votes
3answers
799 views

ことができる versus V~える form

Way back in the day when I was first learning Japanese, I learned that you could add ことができる to a verb to indicate potential. Like so: 食{た}べることができる (I) can eat (something) It became my ...
19
votes
6answers
556 views

Pluralization in Japanese: usage of -たち and -ら

I know that -たち and -ら pluralize the nouns they come after (or indicate a group that the noun is part of), but most of the time the plural in Japanese is implicit. When is it appropriate or necessary ...
19
votes
3answers
387 views

Is there a rule for when to use くらい vs ぐらい?

I see phrases like 200人ぐらい, 半々ぐらい, and 何分くらい, which seem to indicate that くらい and ぐらい are synonymous, if not interchangeable. Is there any kind of rule for deciding which to use, or is it a stylistic ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

How can I differentiate between feet and legs?

Feet are 足, and legs are also 足. Is there a word or method with which I can easily talk about one and not the other? And if not, why is there no word for feet in the Japanese language? Caveat: I ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Commonness of casual phrases like “あたし” and “ちっちゃい”

I came across a Japanese girl in Germany who talked using words like あたし instead of わたし, or ちっちゃい instead of ちいさい. When I asked her, she said that these words or usages of words are more common in ...
18
votes
7answers
1k views

Does anyone have advice on how to get over/through/around the intermediate language plateau? (Self-learner)

How do you get through this? Especially in regards to reading. How do you practice reading at beyond the beginner level (No little black sambo's or whatever other children's books like I found in the ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

What is 「々」 and how does it affect meaning and pronunciation?

I've seen this symbol in various places, such as 「日々」, 「色々」, and 「人々」. What is it, and how does it affect the meaning and pronunciation of the word?
18
votes
2answers
2k views

What does the internet slang “草生えた” mean?

I came across the term 草生えた on the internet. There wasn't much context, but it didn't seem to mean that grass was growing. Is this a slang term? What does it mean? I couldn't find it in any of ...
18
votes
4answers
833 views

Differences between 度 and 回 when counting occurrences

What are the differences between using 度 and 回 when used to count number of occurrences? For example: そんなことは一度もしたことがない そんなことは一回もしたことがない Are there any restrictions on what kind of actions referred ...
18
votes
3answers
722 views

How do I express sentences like: He is dying?

For instance, "He is eating" is "Kare wa tabete iru". However, "He is dying" is not "Kare wa shinde iru". Another example is "He is going to Japan" is not "Kare wa nihon ni itte iru". So if I can't ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is it 日本語がわかります instead of 日本語をわかります?

From what I understand, は is the topic marker, が is the subject marker, and を is the object marker. One of the first sentences I learned doesn't seem to fit the rules I described above. The sentence ...
18
votes
2answers
496 views

Can the suffix -人 be used to express heritage?

In English, if I want to talk about my Irish heritage, I would say "I'm Irish". I have an American passport, and I've never set foot in Ireland, but I still consider myself Irish. Both sides of my ...
18
votes
1answer
607 views

What is the difference between いえ and うち?

I am trying to understand the difference between using いえ and うち. I originally drew the conclusion that うち is used for your own house and いえ for others' houses, but my Japanese teacher said that this ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the difference between 大事 (daiji) and 大切 (taisetsu)?

These are two words that seem like they are basically interchangeable at most levels, as they generally are. The difference between them appears to be small, but what is the difference, if one exists? ...
17
votes
3answers
776 views

How 「えい」 should be pronounced in the words like 英語, 先生, etc?

P.S.: I heard that 「生」 (せい) in the word 先生 can be pronounced either as [sei] or as [see]. If it is so, is there any semantic difference between these variants?
17
votes
4answers
1k views

The reality of answering いいえ to a negative question

tl;dr: when answering a negative question, can いいえ be used to affirm what the question states as a whole? I came to Japan at the age of six, and I guess I pass as a normal native speaker of Japanese ...
17
votes
1answer
587 views

Did ありがとう come from Portuguese “obrigado”?

I have heard before that ありがとう came from the word "obrigado" in Portuguese. Is this true and is there any evidence to support this, or is it an old wives' tale?
17
votes
2answers
544 views

What does the nakaguro (・) between these two words mean?

The first sentence on the Mac OS X article on the Japanese version of Wikipedia reads: Mac OS X(マック オーエス テン)は、アップルが[開発]{かいはつ}・[販売]{はんばい}する、Macintoshコンピュータ[用]{よう}の[現行]{げんこう}オペレーティングシステム (OS) である。 ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

Can you say “half hour” or must you say “30 minutes”?

I know that to say an hour and a half you can say 一時間半, but is it possible to express simply half an hour even though the counter comes before 半? Or would you just have to say 三十分? If both ways are ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does 今度【こんど】 mean “next time”?

The word 今度【こんど】, though its literal meaning is "this time" is in my experience used pretty heavily to refer to tbe next time or some unspecified point in the future. For example: ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

Must do : ~なければならない vs ~なくてはいけない

What are the differences when using ~なければならない and ~なくてはいけない, or their colloquial contracted forms ~なきゃ and ~なくちゃ when saying "must do"? For example, what is the difference in the nuance and usage of ...
16
votes
7answers
1k views

Does the Japanese language only have negative terms for flirting?

I am looking for terms in the Japanese language which can describe the act of flirting in a positive light. This probably requires inventing terms to close a lexical gap, because as far as I know, all ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Will verbal irony and sarcasm be understood and/or appreciated?

It's a topic of debate to what extent Japanese has sarcasm and irony. In any case, Japanese speakers seem to use a whole lot less of it than English speakers. My question is: whether or not Japanese ...
16
votes
1answer
523 views

Why is a place that sells さけ a さかや?

Is it known why a さかや normally has a か, rather than a け like in さけ? Are there many other -や constructions for stores that change the spelling of the word added to?
16
votes
5answers
1k views

What is an appropriate response to お疲{つか}れ様{さま}です in non-work situations?

Often times at the gym, when I'm on my way out, covered in sweat, one of the staff will say お疲{つか}れ様{さま}です ("you've worked hard"...?). Usually at work situations, I've often found that saying some ...
16
votes
4answers
5k views

Why was both katakana and hiragana created?

Nowadays, katakana tends to be used for gairaigo and onomatopoeia, while hiragana tends to be used for native Japanese words. This is a slight simplification - more information is available here. ...
16
votes
4answers
451 views

Words made from strokes of a kanji like 女 toくノ一

According to Wikipedia, one theory for the etymology of くノ一 (female ninja) is that it's made up of the strokes of the kanji 女 (woman). Other theories include that it means nine and one, talking about ...
16
votes
1answer
401 views

what is the difference between ごとに and おきに?

Both ごとに and おきに appear to mean "repeatedly at intervals". What is the difference between these two expressions?
16
votes
6answers
508 views

How can I differentiate agreement with the person and agreement with the idea?

A zillion years ago, before I came to Japan, I took a short introductory course on Japanese. In it, they showed a video of a business meeting where an American businessman is speaking to a Japanese ...
16
votes
1answer
602 views

Why doesn't 分かる have a potential form?

This question may be related to What does で分かる mean? (Cf. Tsuyoshi Ito and my comments to my answer). (Regular) verbs can be turned into the potential form by attaching -((ra)r)e-: tabe-ru vs. ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

How to end a sentence in わけ

The is a certain way of talking where you can end just about anything you say in わけ. What is the sentence structure for this way of talking?
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Who decides what katakana will be used to form English loan words?

I love katakana, mostly because of how the characters look. But I am constantly baffled by why certain loan words from English are constructed using certain katakana sounds. For example, if someone ...
15
votes
3answers
464 views

Love in the air: 愛x恋 {あい vs こい}

From WWWJDIC: 愛 【あい】 (n,n-suf) (See 愛する) love; affection; 恋 【こい】 (n) love; tender passion; My understanding on affection, love and tender passion is like the following: affection < ...
15
votes
4answers
645 views

“Seemingly cute” - かわいい + 〜そう

The 〜そう form means "seemingly 〜" and is usually conjecture made based on first-hand information. This usually means seeing something or hearing about something and making a conjecture, e.g., おいしそう ...
15
votes
2answers
469 views

When writing for general public, is there a general guideline for selecting kanji?

After reading numerous publications, I've spotted a trend or custom on determining whether kanji is or is not used for certain words. The most obvious ones are: こと・事 …が実は犯人だったということがわかる。 ...
15
votes
4answers
533 views

How to “shoo away” a sales clerk?

When I go window shopping, the sales clerk would usually come near me asking what I like. How should I politely shoo them away? Can I simply say いいえ、けっこうです or something like 自分で見る I know ...
15
votes
1answer
761 views

JLPT N1 question: Why isn't a large amount of money a good enough reason to kill someone?

In my JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level N1 workbook, there is this example question: 適当{てきとう}な語{かたり}を選{えら}びなさい この殺人{さつじん}事件{じけん}の裏{うら}には(  )上{じょう}のトラブルがあるようだ。 A 金額{きんがく}  B ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

How do you write someone's name if you don't know what kanji to use?

Since kanji can have multiple pronunciations, how would you know how to write someone's name if you've only heard it spoken? What's the convention? Would you just guess, or maybe write it out in ...
15
votes
1answer
426 views

Temperature abbreviations?

A certain dialog in my book has a man describing the symptoms of his cold to the doctor. It reads thus: 医者:熱はありますか。 ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is 知りません the negative form of 知っています?

I'm reading Minna no Nihongo (Chapter 15) and it says what I wrote in the question. I would think the negative would be 知っていません。
15
votes
2answers
921 views

Usage of commas in Japanese sentences

This might sound like a strange question, but how does the usage of commas differ when used in Japanese compared to English? I believe りんご、オレンジとバナナ wouldn't work, but that it's OK to list like ...
15
votes
2answers
430 views

What are the rules for reading numbers before a foreign counter-word?

Is there a rule of thumb for knowing the reading of a number when it is written in western numerals, and is followed by a loaned counter-word? For example, how would you pronounce the "1" in 1セット? My ...
15
votes
4answers
573 views

The significance of 前 {まえ} in Japanese language and culture

I noticed that the 前 is a handy kanji character in Japanese language. It is used in many words including but not limited to: 名前 {なまえ} : Given name 手前, お前 : You 当たり前 {あたりまえ} : Natural, ...
15
votes
2answers
413 views

Why is it なさそう and not なそう

"It seems there is none" is なさそう, which escapes the usual rule for 形容詞 (イ-adjectives), which says "drop the い and add そう". Is there a historical explanation for this exception? And does it have ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

What are the guidelines of omitting particles?

I've recently discovered that certain particles could be omitted from a Japanese sentence (to help make it shorter), and still preserve the original meaning. Unfortunately, most resources about this ...
14
votes
3answers
511 views

Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り ...
14
votes
5answers
522 views

Modern names of the obsolete kana ゑ and ゐ

In modern Japanese, the kana ゑ/ヱ (we) and ゐ/ヰ (wi) are largely obsolete. Words formerly containing them now are pronounced with /e/ and /i/, so they were replaced by え and い, respectively. But when ...

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